Pistorius trial resumes with estate manager on stand

Defence is seeking to challenge prosecution claim athlete deliberately killed girlfriend

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today, 2014. Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year. Photograph: Reuters

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today, 2014. Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, May 5, 2014, 10:42

South African Paralympic and Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius returned to court on today for the resumption of his murder trial, with the defence calling Johan Stander, the manager of his up-market Pretoria housing complex, as a witness.

Mr Stander, who lived near Pistorius in the Silverwoods estate, was the first person on the scene after the 27-year-old shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of February 14th last year. Taking the stand, Mr Stander told the court he received a phone call from a distressed Pistorius in the middle of the night, saying he had killed 29-year-old law graduate and model Steenkamp by mistake.

“Oom (Uncle) Johan, please, please come to my house. I shot Reeva. I thought she was an intruder. Please, please come quickly,” he quoted Pistorius as telling him in a phone conversation minutes after the shooting.

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Mr Stander also testified about previous break-ins at the estate but was forced to admit under cross-examination that it was “generally a safe place”.

Pistorius’ defence hinges on his assertion that he heard a noise in the middle of the night and thought it was an intruder climbing into the bathroom adjoining his bedroom.

When he heard another noise coming from the toilet he fired four shots through the door, thinking one or more intruders was behind it.

Steenkamp, who was hit by at least three of the four hollow-point rounds fired, died almost instantly.

If convicted of murder, Pistorius faces life in prison. The trial, which was adjourned on April 17th to allow prosecutors to deal with other cases on their books, has drawn huge interest both in South Africa and abroad.

Before the shooting, Pistorius, who had his lower legs amputated as a baby, was one of the most recognised names in athletics, competing against able-bodied sprinters on carbon-fibre prosthetics.

Besides a clutch of Paralympic medals, he reached the semi-finals of the 400m at the London 2012 Olympics.

Reuters